Local leaders may say the proposed $100 million Atlanta Braves training complex is going to be in North Port, but the U.S. Post Office considers the area Venice. So, too, do a lot of people who live near the proposed 7,500-seat stadium.
While the the name thing is a niggling detail, the economic impact to the region will be huge: more business for restaurants and retailers and likely a lot of new residents from Atlanta.
“It’s going to help North Port as much as it does Venice,” says mayor John Holic, adding that he'd like to see a youth sports complex as part of the negotiations
If the deal goes through, the Braves could be practicing in 2018 on a 150-acre complex in the West Villages Improvement District (aka Gran Paradiso and IslandWalk). It borders State College of Florida’s Venice campus and is about two miles to the Jacaranda and U.S. 41 shopping district--one of the busiest areas in South County.
Just six years ago, many of the folks living in the West Villages were pushing hard to take the Post Office’s position and be known as Venice. Residents even presented a petition to the North Port Commission to omit the city's name from its signage. The Commission not only did not appreciate the snub, they unsuccessfully pushed the Post Office to reclassify the area...and then they put up more North Port signs.
But that was during the recession, and North Port had been hit pretty hard. Venice's property values are higher. Now, about 40 percent of all housing starts are in the West Villages and the community is filling out and looking great.
Marty Black, a former Venice city manager who is now in charge of the West Villages Improvement District, has been leading the Braves-wooing efforts. The District plans to donate land for the project. Sarasota County is also involved, and it's not quite clear how all the money is going to come together for the project.
Still, you gotta wonder: If this all comes to pass, whether the sportscasters will be announcing that the Braves are taking the field in beautiful North Port--or will it be Venice?